Mark Perry’s miscreant band caught live at the Engine Rooms in Brighton back near the end of 2009. Note MANNifesto’s very own Kev Mann was drumming for them on that particular evening.


‘It’s All Acronyms’

Engine Rooms 12th December

Supported by The Fallen Leaves and Chester

Alternative TV gig poster for the Engine Rooms, Brighton. Dec 12th 2009.

Mark Perry’s Alternative TV have always played second fiddle to the likes of the Pistols et al, but in truth his musical aspirations could arguably be considered more ambitious and ,dare I say, cleverer.

Perry was always more clued-up then most of his front line comrades on the punk scene, especially with his highly influential D.I.Y fanzine Sniffin Glue, which was partially evocative of Gregg Shaw’s garage obsessed Bomp! and a precious link to the recent developments happening in the music scene across the Atlantic, all set to the grey bleak landscape of Deptford in the middle of both economic depression and social woes.

Our former bank clerk turned scriber for the punk phenomenon, quickly became restless and set up a label Step Forward Records with Miles Copeland, going onto form his own band in 1977.

Alternative TV, or ATV as it’s fondly acronymed, always possessed a more politically charged and forward thinking doctrine and were never satisfied to just blend or aimlessly or fit in.

The spirit of The Kingsmen, Sonics, MC5, Stooges and to some extent Can flowed through their veins and gave them a certain edge.

In fact ATV pre-emptied the route that Lydon was to take after leaving the UK punk scenes poster boys of choice the Pistols, when he went on to form PiL. They also had in my mind more conviction then The Clash, whose phoney postulations couldn’t help hide that middle class liberal stock that Strummer reeked of: no our forgotten hero always seemed more genuine.

Unfortunately for ATV Perry never felt comfortable resting on his laurels and always managed to jump ship at the most inopportune moments. Throughout the 80’s he played in many different incarnations including playing drums for The Lemon Kittens and Door And The Window, whilst singing lead in The Reflections.

He soon began resurrecting ATV again and would for the next 25 years put together various line ups and either record the odd album or go on tour. These tended to be pretty much low-key affairs and carried on like some bi-annual event, though the current trends could influence his exposure especially when any bands that carried kudos cited his music as inspiration, suddenly those gigs became rather tightly packed.

Tonight I’m baring witness to another timely resurrection, one that seems apt in the present over indulgence for reforming bands, our present musical landscape is heaving with past ghosts from the last forty years like the dinosaurs, cavemen and renaissance all existing at the same historical period in time.

ATV on the other hand at least have something to offer, the show tonight proves just how relevant they still are, though the only constant in the line up is Perry himself, his latest incarnation made up of journeymen including a long time knockabout drinking partner of mine, drummer Kev Mann, guitarist Lee McFadden and bass player Steve Carter, all perfectly capable and solid players whose only real chance of ever getting together for a practice is the sound check itself.

They play an excruciatingly loud set, which may be my own fault as I stood right down the front, though to be honest the layout of the cellar like club means the sound bounces around making it impossible to not have your ears bleed. For those who’ve not been lucky enough to grace the venue of choice the Engine Rooms, they will find it has all the chic of a Hells Angels clubroom taken over by Goths who are way too long in the tooth to be pissing about wearing eyeliner and dying their hair jet black – for Christ sake they even have a coffin for a table.

The promoters manage to lay on an impressive event, regardless of décor, which must have taken some organising as most of the musicians are scattered throughout Europe.

ATV and their music on offer this evening is made up of both past former glories and tracks taken from an array of albums made during the last two decades.

Opening with ‘Viva La Rock’nRoll’, from the seminal 1978 album The Image Has Cracked, our band comes on all roaring spite and raucous, a good indicator of what was to follow. The Stooges like guitar riffs and hints of The Fall mixed with that Deptford twang perfectly captures the essence of the era, so what if it’s actually 2009 the intent is what matters most.

‘Good Times’ continues the momentum with the over excited Mann going overboard on the flourishes and rolls, whilst the rest of the troop keep a tight ship and let Perry ramble on a diatribe.

‘Plastic People’ is an update of ‘Louie Louie’ for the democratised Internet age, the three-chord trick being used in a semi mocking tone with a well felt sermon on the phoney and fake in society that is literally delivered as a spitting discourse.

Next up was the monologue of sorts ‘Release The Natives’ from what may be called the difficult second album, Vibing Up The Senile Man, a challenging soundscape with the odd clash of percussion and running of plectrums up down the fret board. All spookily cryptic and not much fun, this is a dark glimpse of experimentation that showed just how far from the 77 punk scene these guys had moved.

It acts here as a slight pause before everything suddenly goes all rather semi glam with ‘Nasty Little Lonely’.

A brief chat with the crowd whilst McFadden tunes up makes way for the dub like ‘Communication Failure’, which still sounds out of tune and rather lost, before more chin wagging with the audience.

Perry in his shirt bedecked with a pattern of skulls, or as Mann called it ‘his Cambodian camouflage suit’, starts on the anecdotes. Earlier that day he had bumped into Jools Holland who happened to be playing the slightly larger Brighton Centre next door.  Holland had played piano of course on ATV’s first album, so went way back with Perry, though his now stiff demeanour resulted in a slightly embarrassing meeting. Perry tried to wrestle the details of where he was staying but met with a flustered response, our Hootenanny fronting babbler got cold feet at the prospect of all of the band and entourage gate-rashing his room at 2 a.m. in the morning.

The classics continued with ‘Love Lies Limp’, one of the founding pillers that punk was built on. Reggae infused Voidoids with oil drum kicking bass drum and some nifty bass guitar lines laid down so well you could trip up on them, this proved a worthy rendition.

‘Action Time Vision’ is ATV’s anthem of sorts; in fact it’s more like a ferocious and unruly Batman theme played by PiL.

A rabid call to arms that perfectly fits these times, the energy on display never waning for a second, anger never sounded so sweetly packaged into three minutes.

They finish on the double of ‘Urban Kids’ and ‘You Bastard’, both commanding a heavy call and response from the now worked up crowd. McFadden gets a chance to deliver some fairly robust lead work whilst Perry plays with his congregation smiling and thoroughly enjoying himself, even forgetting the words at one point, not that anyone minds.

‘You Bastard’ proved a proverbial and apt finale to proceedings with the chorus summing up the attitude perfectly.

Supporting our main act were The Fallen Leaves whose brand of garage and rock’n’roll is not dissimilar in both the ground it covers musically and in attitude, to Billy Childish.

This fine band hail from Richmond where their own D.I.Y ethos has seen them start up a club night called The Parliament Club, a den of ambiguity accompanied by deerstalker hat wearing beatniks in search of the best on offer from the 60’s beat groups and various unheard US bands found on those genius Teenage Shutdown compilations.

Our four-piece tonight cut quite a smart dash, somewhere between British Sea Powers older brothers and a unit of guerrilla farmer gentry at the onset of World War II. Their to the manor born look is finished off with the obligatory armband that sports a logo of a lone green oak leaf, their cause remains tight-lipped as though they belong to a secret society.

Amongst their number is former original Subway Sect member Robert Symmons, who seems to have learnt a lot in the almost thirty years since then, wearing his Telecaster high like a gatling gun he twangs and shoots off many crafty licks with a cruel slight of hand between Duane Eddy and Eddie Phillips.

Frontman Rev. Rob Green croons and swoons in the manner of Gene Vincent and even dare I say hints of James frontman Tim Booth, as he stands in mock disdain and attitude with his roguish Dickensian necktie and waist coat, which make him look like an extra in Kubrick’s ‘Barry Lyndon’.

On tunes like ‘Trouble’ they meld The Monkees ‘Stepping Stone’ and garage from some forgotten corner of the US, lets say San Antoine for arguments sake, with The Rock Sects In era Downliners Sect.

The ballsy and opportune singer break on ‘Repetition’ goes someway to showing their class, the image of the Rev taking a well earned cup of tea poured from his flask, would scream expletives from this corner if he was a cocksure teenager, but as it’s man in his forties we shall commend him for his bravado.

I’m also starting to grow attached to the Rev. as his nonce catcall comment about Pete Townsend seemed in poor taste, which is why it worked so well.

To be honest there are far too many comparisons that spring to mind to describe the Fallen Leaves sound, from the British beat groups and Nuggets school of influence to the r’n’b of Them and countless others, they comb through a rich heritage of all that is cool from 1956 to 1963.

They wear the inspirations well though there’s not much room amongst their sharp attire.

If you needed any further emphasis of where the music was heading you could just listen to the DJ, who played many a forgotten 45 from the same stable that brought us The Standells and Count Five, like a night at the Dirty Water Club or any of The New Untouchable fuzzed up garage shindigs.

Unfortunately I only got to see the opening group Chester in a sound check, but it’s safe to say they follow a similar path as The Fallen Leaves but in a much rawer and over indulgence sounding vicious attack on the fuzz pedal manner.

They were more of your garden shed then garage band, I mean all the leg works been done forty years ago, to sound like this you got to forget everything you’ve learnt and throw out any record after the Beatles A Hard Days Night.

It’s all done in the best possible taste and shouldn’t be taken too serious so I’m going to leave them alone.

There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of future planned gigs for Perry but with Lydon presently dusting off his old ill fitting jackets for a reformed Pil tour there is no reason that ATV shouldn’t be sharing the same bill and attention in the spotlight.

To be frank Perry suffers fools gladly and shuns a lot of the bullshit, which has led him to pursue a different path from his contemporaries. In fact I like Perry for his convictions and the way he’s refused to get sucked in, a down to Earth fella indeed who could easily be tagged as one the nicest musicians I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet, most you see are usually beyond the pail and more flaky then bowel of cereal, and anyway everyone knows the real rock’n’roll ethos has always lain with the writers – right?

Dominic Valvona

Alternative TV in their hey day, 1977.

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